The Artist’s Way and 3 Reasons to Read it

A springboard for spirituality, a foundation for feeling better, a tool for transition, however you look at The Artist’s Way, once you’ve opened the pages and dipped in (if you’re anything at all like me and the millions of others who have used it), you will question parts of your life, cast off what is no longer serving you, seek your personal truth, grow and flourish (not necessarily in that order).

Your life will improve!

The Artist’s Way and how it’s helped me so far

Here’s how it has helped me so far – and I’m only on Chapter 5.

Stuck in the Virtue Trap

Yesterday marked the beginning of my Week 5, ‘Recovering a sense of possibility’, in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In a section entitled ‘The Virtue Trap’ she talks about how necessary it is for us – as artists (by the way, we are all artists) to have ‘down time’ or ‘creative solitude’.

Too often we are so involved in being ‘nice’ and in serving others, that we completely neglect ourselves and our own (artistic) needs.

Do you recognise this? Are you running around trying to make everybody else happy (kids, work colleagues, friends and family)? Do your own needs fall at the bottom of the pile?

If so, if we don’t ensure that we get creative time for ourselves, then apparently there are dangers! We can become frustated, resentful, angry.

I’m one of those people that can work from home because I’m really self-disciplined. I do the crappy stuff I have to do to get it out of the way. The trouble with that though, is that I often don’t take care of the fun factor. I get caught in the busy trap and forget how to enjoy myself and feed my creative spirit (if ‘creative spirit’ sounds bizarre, it’s what I came up with to replace Julia’s constant reference to ‘God’. You are encouraged to find a replacement you can work with).

Neglecting your creative spirit

With the end of the school holidays, I’d been neglecting my artistic side and concentrating on the kids. That’s normal, but I was feeling a bit uneasy… antsy. Gnarly.

The Artist's Way - bat drawing

I recognised why I was feeling like that, and what I needed, and decided that today, before doing anything else on my long ‘to do’ list, I would allow myself to write and work on my blog for two whole hours. Just making this commitment to myself made me feel better.

I knew that if I got writing for a couple of hours, then afterwards, I’d get on with all those other jobs – and feel better about doing them.

I was ready to go, but then my partner wanted a chat so I reluctantly pretended to be interested in pottering over a coffee, but I was seething inside and he sensed it. We ended up having a blazing row (about nothing).

‘We eventually become like cornered animals, snarling at our family and friends to leave us alone and stop making unreasonable demands.’

Julia Cameron

This, to me, is a very clear illustration of just how important carving out sacred time for your (creative) self is, and what happens if your plans are scuppered.

(It is also a lesson to me to communicate more honestly with my partner!)

Reason No 1: The Artist’s Way gives us permission to be creative, or rather, it teaches us how to give ourselves permission

A lifetime ago – or maybe about five years, a good friend, C, told me about a book which had made a huge impact on her. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She knew I liked to dabble in writing, and I guess she thought it might be useful and encourage me to pursue this.

She explained that there are lots of exercises you do throughout the book that you can pick and choose from. But there are two exercises which are not optional.

Morning Pages

One of them is called the ‘Morning pages’, which is basically, three pages of a hand-written stream of consciousness, as soon as you wake up.

Artists Date

The second is a weekly ‘Artist’s date’: in a nutshell, a date with… yourself. It sounded so naughty, not least because she told me through embarrassed giggles. Imagine! The sheer indulgence of taking yourself – and nobody else – off for an hour or two to do something a little bit different or special.

I enjoyed our conversation but then promptly forgot about it.

The Artist's Way - filing away information

Or did I? Perhaps I filed it away somewhere deep in my subconscious (in my ‘creative spirit’ file – which is turquoise, by the way, and covered in sparkly dragonflies 😉).

A year or so later my head was under a blanket of grey but I was trying so hard to come out from under it and see the light. In my search for help something drew me towards buying a copy of The Artist’s Way. I was enraptured from the moment I picked up the large format paperback. A beautiful cover picture of ‘Cranes flying by Mount Fuji’ (Nagasawa Rosetu) gives a sense of freedom, peace and possibility (to me). I opened its pages and my adoration grew. Wide margins contain inspirational quotes from a diverse range of thinkers. It felt comforting yet sacred at the same time and it’s written in a friendly and encouraging tone.

I loved it so much that I immediately bought a copy for my friend, C.

The moment I handed it to her it dawned on me that, aha, she had told me about this book already!

How we laughed 😊

The Artist's Way - serendipity

I guess my subconscious (or my creative spirit) had placed it strategically somewhere in my (tiny little) mind so that it popped up just at a time that I needed it the most.

Julia Cameron might call it synchronicity or serendipity.

What is The Artists Way?

Essentially, the author describes her book as ‘A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self’. It is a 12-week course, but you can do it at the pace you are most comfortable with. With every chapter comes exercises to help you uncover and unleash your creativity, whether that be as a writer, a painter, a sculptor, but also, as anything else such as a lawyer or stay-at-home parent.

It is really about unblocking anything (voices from the past which have turned into the monster of your inner critic) that is stopping you from being the creative soul you were born to be. You are encouraged to nurture your (creative) self and fiercely guard your time to practise your art.

The first time around – An eye-opener, a mind opener

The first time around, when I began the book in 2016, I dared open my mind to the possibility, just the possibility, that I might have a creative side in hiding (still), after all, and that just perhaps, my creative spirit deserved the chance to see the light. Maybe even, I could let my creative side… flourish?

‘The ideas we are comfortable with are in the room with us. The other ideas are out and we keep them out.’

Julia Cameron

And so I opened that imaginary door from the Week 2 chapter (in which our mind is a room of our ‘usual ideas’) just a crack, to let a ray or two of outside ideas, that incredible world out there… in.

The Artist's Way - the first time around

‘Nudging the door open a bit more is what makes for open-mindedness.’

Julia Cameron

I did some of the exercises and got about halfway through and I’m not sure now why I stopped. Perhaps I just didn’t have the strength at the time to keep believing I deserved it.

I did continue with the morning pages for quite some time though. They were full of panic, fear, and darkness. I vented my shame and grief and despair on those pages and I’m sure it helped.

Only thing is, I think I got stuck in the ‘angry’ or ‘protecting ferociously’ my artistic side part. I needed it at the time, perhaps… but now it’s more than time to get ‘unstuck’.

The second time around – A shared work group

I am rereading The Artist’s Way now. But this time, I know that I will finish it. And the second time around, it is a truly exhilarating read.

Reason Number 2: No matter how far you get through it, it helps

Reading it again made me realise how much I had got out of it the first time despite not having finished the book.

When my head was in a big old mess, going through the first chapters and doing the exercises was a huge part of freeing me from the darkness. They offered me the beginnings of a recovery. They validated my feelings of frustration and encouraged any small seeds of hope, pushing me to nurture them, to hold them up to the light and to let them grow.

The Artist's Way - Makes me cry

Writing stuff down and reclaiming time for me gave a real shift to my perspective.

In fact, if I hadn’t begun ‘the work’ that Julia sets in her book, I might not have had the courage to sign up for an online fiction workshop with the Unthank School of Writing.

If I hadn’t joined the course, I wouldn’t have had the bi-weekly tasks of submitting 2000 words of a work in progress for the other students (and ultimately our tutor, Stephen Carver) to read.

And if I hadn’t had that homework, I wouldn’t have finished writing (nor perhaps even properly started) my first novel.

I probably wouldn’t have started my blog either.

So… I am excited to see what’s going to happen when I do the entire book!

Reason No 3: It prompts discussion with others who are looking for greater fulfilment

It really does create connection. Not only did my friend, C, recommend the book to me, but a few months ago, a different friend who I’d not been in touch with for years, messaged me with, ‘I wanted to reach out after having read your blog.’ We had a chat, and then he said, ‘So-and-so (yet Another Friend who I must have discussed ‘That Book’ with) mentioned you have read The Artist’s Way.’

It prompts discussion and connection with others who are looking for greater fulfilment, whether artistically, or simply who are searching for… that certain elusive something that can somehow be missing from our lives.

An activity to share

When I was reading the book the first time around I remember feeling so excited that I began to elaborate grand plans about hosting Artist’s Way workshops or finding (or founding) groups, so when I saw a post from writer and podcast host Nicole Rivera referring to a post by writer, Sam Kimberle, inviting interested parties into an Artist’s Way workgroup I wrote to Sam.

She sent a warm and welcoming reply. I was in. And the group was starting… really soon. Yikes!

Earlier I bragged about how I get stuff done and am super-organised. However, with this workgroup, I had over-committed. It was the school holidays and I just, you know, put my head in the sand (on Blackpool beach, as it happens) and pretended that if I didn’t think about it, the start date for the first session (and including when we were to begin the book) would just magically remain in the future.

Despite my best intentions, my second time around of reading The Artist’s Way didn’t start as planned you can read about my shaky beginnings in the group here.

The Artist's Way prompts discussion

Two hours is up. In fact, it’s been a little over, so I really need to get back to that long ‘to do’ list. But I feel better. I’ve nurtured my creative spirit and given myself what I needed.

Thank you, Julia!

But how about you? Do you nurture your creative spirit (or God or whatever you would like to call that side of you that was born to create)? Do you give your artistic side what it needs?

And if anybody is thinking about picking up The Artist’s Way, all I can suggest is, Do.

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    1. That’s impressive. As you say, priceless! I haven’t yet read The Prosperous Heart – in fact, I haven’t even finished The Artist’s Way yet. I’m really excited to be reading it now and to find out what’s next 😊 Thank you for your comment 😊 I listened to her on the Good Life Project Podcast recently too… if you’ve not heard it, you may like it 😊

  1. I love this book and have found it so profoundly important in understanding the creativity process. I also have her book The Right to Write, which changed my ideas about writing too. It’s good to read your post and see how you reacted to the book and its exercises, thank you.

    1. Absolutely, Wendy. I haven’t even finished it and it’s had a huge effect on my life (and I can’t say that about many books I’ve not even finished). I look forward to reading The Right to Write. Thanks a lot for your comment. It was weird, as soon as I picked up the book today, the first thing I read was a quote by Susan Rothenberg, ‘You build up a head of steam. If you’re four days out of the studio, on the fifth day you really crash in there. You will kill anyone that disturbs you on that fifth day, when you desperately need it.’ It fits sooooo well with how I had reacted when the darling love of my life wanted a casual chat when I had planned to do some writing after a dry stretch. The book just nails it!

      1. LOL. Yes. I think we writers need special t-shirts that say “Beware of the writer – may bite!!” that we can wear when we are in that head space.
        I’d love to hear how you get on the The Right to Write.

  2. I really loved this post. Yet again. Writing that way is something I used to do every morning and should really get back to doing. I find it way easier to just write than to think about what I want to say and stay on track.
    The book sounds amazing. I love how you can get the message you want by making it work for you.
    By giving time to yourself you are giving to those in your life a much more present, happier you.
    Love, light and glitter

    1. I write so fast my hand aches now I’ve started the Morning Pages again… Julia kind of says that when you are writing things down first thing in the morning (a ‘brain dump’ – love that term!), if the same thing comes up again and again, after a certain amount of time, you’re going to have to examine what this thing is, and make some changes. I think you would really appreciate the book. So many other books and articles I’ve read since my first attempt at reading The Artist’s Way seem to have been influenced by her thinking.
      You are absolutey right. The more we take care of ourselves, the better off we are to look after (or even just be around) other people. It’s just not always that easy to remember that.
      Sending you… Smiles, sunshine and sparkles

      1. That’s a good thought. You inspired me – journalled last night and this morning again.
        I’ve not read her book, I’m assuming some of it is about the connection we all have with the entire world, how we’re all the source and creativity.

        I’m going to see how much it costs. What is her surname?

        I love sunshine and sparkles! All the more so now that it is raining here

        Love, light and glitter

        1. Oooh I think I just replied to this comment in my reply to your other comment. Thanks for stopping by…
          Sending more sunshine 😎 😍
          PS Author of The Artist’s Way: Julia Cameron

      2. I cant see the comment from a few minutes ago. Either way I just read the introduction. I like 🙂 writing every morning for half an hour to an hour or at least for 10 minutes is something I usually do. There are times when I’m scared to and don’t- as I said your post and commenting here reminded me to just do it anyways – I also like to do it in the evening. The same way putting it down in the morning allows you space, it does at night too. Dialogue journaling is something I’ve found really helpful. I’m sometimes surprised when I see things I’ve written at how insightful and true what I have written is. It’s true, the more times you say something the more real it becomes.
        Have you ever done dates with yourself? It’s not really my style (fear) but maybe either way :). And doing things that are mindless focuses you enough on something else that it gives you space to really tune in or out. I’ve told enough people to just write every day and have a friend who i finally convinced a few months ago to do so
        Ramble over 🙂
        Love, light and glitter

        1. Feel free to ramble to me any time – I enjoy reading your rambles 🤗 And yes, I agree. It’s easier to give advice to others than to take your own sometimes. You are already very wise – yes, it’s about the connection we have to the whole world through energy, but I guess you can (as with most things in life, probably) interpret it the way that suits you.
          The author is Julia Cameron.
          Dates with myself are way out of my comfort zone too (and it’s so hard to find the time to do them). So it’s something I massively struggle with (making a commitment… to myself?!)! Interesting that it is so difficult. What does that say?
          There will be another Artist’s Way work group (I think starting in January) probably, so you could also contact Sam ( if you’d be interested in reading the book with a group. I was scared… but I’m getting so much out of going through the book in that way. We help each other along.
          PS Maybe you didn’t see the comment at first because I approve them before they’re published (maybe I should do away with this – perhaps it’s too annoying for people who kindly comment to not know whether ‘it’s worked’!)
          Sending… art, attention (to detail?), and …(erm) all that is… good(!?) xx

    1. Lovely to hear from you, Ashok. If you do read it (I think you are referring to the book rather than the blog? 😘), I would love to hear your thoughts. I hope you are not too rushed to savour life. Sending love to you 🤗

  3. As always my friend, you have brilliantly written this post. In fact, being unfamiliar with this book, you’ve made me want to have a read through it! Sounds like quite the creative adventure to go on.

    I am in total agreement with the sentiments you share here. Isn’t it amazing how off balance we can become when we don’t properly prioritize ourselves and our well-being? I think it is critical that we each have time to nourish the parts of ourselves that daily life can often deplete.

    Beautiful post my friend. I’m glad you are bringing awareness to how important it is to take of our creative nature and to encourage those we love to do the same. The difference it makes is immeasurable! We become better human beings overall. Lord knows we need that in today’s crazy world!

    Much love and endless blessings to you my friend. 💕 ~ Holly

    1. Holly, you leave such generous comments. Thank you! It’s touching. 🤗
      I hope that you do delve into a copy of this book. I really think you’d appreciate it. Julia Cameron shares such great wisdom and and is so encouraging. She makes what may seem impossible seem totally reachable if only we take care of ourselves and realise that doing this is not selfish but necessary for the good of not only ourselves, but the rest of the world too.
      Do read the book – she explains it sooooooo much better than me 😘
      Love to you, Holly, from Eilidh 🥰

    1. I hope you do, Emma and that you gain something from it. There is so much wisdom in there – and it’s written as if Julia Cameron is sitting in the room with you, and you’re sharing a pot of tea (and a slice of cake or two). xx

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